Guest post by Stacey Ebert
An event planner by day, I got a call to meet with the new executive director of my former sleep-away camp on planning events for its ninetieth anniversary. I couldn’t help but think of all of the people who have passed through the wooden doors of those cabins all those years. It’s May in New York and summer is on its way. Students are studying for finals, parents are making packing lists, staff members are connecting with friends on social media, all with one common thread . . . CAMP.
Ninety years. Visited a few times a year by school groups or conferences, those wooden cabins wait patiently and anxiously for the arrival of hundreds of boys and girls every summer. Do they know just how loved and revered they truly are? A staff member told me the new director is thinking of changing the color of the wood, and the first thing I thought of was, “You know you’ll cover over the sharpie makers of the names drawn each summer, right?”
Ninety years. It’s amazing to think of just how many people’s lives have been touched by the camp sitting along Sound Avenue in Riverhead, New York. In wanting to help with this reunion, I asked if they thought their alumni list was up to date. One quick blast on social media put out a request for details to be sent to the camp office. What happened next touched my heart. If only the cabins had a Facebook page.
Quickly, there were reposts on pages and sites I didn’t know existed. Names I’d never heard of clicked like and share because camp meant the same thing to them. They slept in those same cabins. They wrote on those same walls, and they tell stories that begin the same way. Song lyrics popped up with one person starting them and another finishing them because we all know the same words. People who were my counselors and bunkmates and even campers popped up with a “like” because someone they knew had passed it along. Too bad the cabins don’t have a Twitter feed.
Those timber walls on that piece of wooded land overlooking the Long Island Sound hold so many hearts. That place filled with spirit, love, teachings, laughter, and fun continues to make memories with campers and staff today. Those cabins that sit idle for ten months a year create a lifetime of memories in just a short two.
Ninety years of camp. Can you imagine just how many people that is? How many lives have been affected and just how many have been shaped by their time at camp? Todays fundraisers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, artists, chefs, volunteers, travelers, and more were yesterdays campers. A reunion will bring back those who were there in camp’s heyday. They’ll come back to walk the paths, climb the beach stairs, eat in the lodge, squeeze hands at a friendship circle, and sing at a council fire. But where they’ll head first is to the cabins. To the place where so many memories were made and so many stories start. The post on Facebook may have gotten the addresses and raised some money, but people will come back for the memory of camp and for the love of the cabins of their youth.
Stacey Ebert is a camper at heart who has spent over twenty-five years in the camping industry. She has a love of the beach, travel, and anything chocolate. Follow her at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com.
Photo courtesy of Camp Echo, Burlingham, New York